Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds is excited to play in his first NHL All-Star Game. That the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend being held in Los Angeles just adds a little bit more to it.
Simmonds was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (No. 61) of the 2007 NHL Draft and played his first three NHL seasons with them. But he knows he'd never be going back to Los Angeles as an all-star if he hadn't left there in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23, 2011.
"I was a little bit upset I got traded, as anyone would be [about] their first trade since becoming a professional athlete," Simmonds said. "But I quickly realized this was a great place for me to evolve, as a player on the ice and as a person off the ice."
The player who returns to Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend leads the Flyers with 19 goals and is third with 36 points entering their game at the New York Rangers on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV). Simmonds is tied for fifth in the League with nine power-play goals, and since the 2011-12 season, his first with the Flyers, his 68 power-play goals are second to Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (106).
Simmonds didn't enter the League with all-star credentials. He was passed over in the 2006 NHL Draft as an 18-year-old. The next year, NHL Central Scouting didn't consider him one of the top 210 North American skaters in its final ranking for the 2007 draft despite his 23 goals and 49 points in 66 games with Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League.
But Mike Futa, who was the general manager in Owen Sound, was hired by the Kings as their director of amateur scouting before the 2007 draft and knew what Simmonds brought.
"[Futa] knew the kind of person I was, the type of family I came from, the way I worked, because he saw it first hand when I was 15, 16, 17 years old," Simmonds said. "I just wanted to prove everyone wrong, that I should have been on that draft list and trying to make the L.A. Kings proud that they made a good pick."
The Kings learned quickly they had.
"He was a good player right from the start," said Flyers GM Ron Hextall, who was assistant GM of the Kings when Simmonds arrived in Los Angeles. "He's one of those guys that come to camp the first year and you go 'wow, the kid's going to be a player.' You weren't 100-percent sure he'd play in the NHL, but you were pretty sure he'd take a hard run at it. It was pretty quick that you figured out the drive that he had as an individual. Before long it revealed itself that he would play in the National Hockey League."
Simmonds made the Kings as a 20-year-old in 2008-09; however, he was a bottom-six forward who never averaged more than 14:28 of ice time during his three seasons in Los Angeles.
But the other 29 teams knew who Simmonds was.
"For a couple years I was mentioned in a lot of trade rumors while I was in Los Angeles," Simmonds said. "I think one of them had me going to Atlanta. … Kind of not really paid attention. Tried to play my game, do what I did well, and if I was going to be traded, I was going to be traded, there wasn't much I could do about it. Just went about my job playing hockey the way I did."
When it finally happened, Simmonds said it took some time for him to be convinced that the trade was going to benefit him.
"My agent, Eustace King, first thing he said to me was 'This is going to be a good thing for your career,'" Simmonds said. "'This is going to expand your role, this is going to help you out. I know you're upset at the moment but you're going to look back in five years and you're going to appreciate it.'"
It didn't take nearly that long. The Flyers used him on the power play in his first season and he scored 28 goals. He's become an all-situation player, a part of the Flyers' leadership group and is pointed to as a role model for younger players.
Video: PHI@NYI: Simmonds goes top shelf off fortunate bounce
"When you look throughout his history coming into the League and everything that he's built his game into today, I think he's done it the old-fashioned way; he's earned everything," coach Dave Hakstol said. "That's a great example, the way he cares and competes on a daily basis."
Simmonds has been back to Los Angeles numerous times since the trade, but his return for All-Star Weekend isn't about showing the Kings they made a mistake.
"I think I've gotten a lot better since I was a Los Angeles King," Simmonds said. "My game has evolved. I do a lot more than when I was there. This is not for me at all one of those 'look how much better I've become' or one of those things, or they made a mistake; not at all. I'm definitely happy being a Philadelphia Flyer. If it wasn't for that trade, I wouldn't be the player I am today. So I'm definitely grateful to this organization to have given me that chance to evolve. I'm just going to go back there and have fun, just enjoy it."